A group of Brighton High School students got to experience what it’s like to be distracted while they are driving in a simulated driving program held Tuesday and sponsored by Farm Bureau Insurance.

The program took place in the school’s auxiliary gym. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone.” Other reasons for driving distracted include changing the music in your car, using an app, checking your GPS or map, checking email or posting to social media sites, eating and drinking, and putting on makeup or grooming.

In 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 3,166 people died in the US as a result of distracted driving, according to NHTSA figures. Shawn Pipoly, who is Brighton Mayor Pro Tem, but whose day job is heading the Shawn Pipoly Insurance Agency, says that as a Brighton graduate he was pleased to be able to get the program for Brighton High School. "Farm Bureau Insurance, direct with PEERS Foundation, has created a partnership...and they put it out for the agents to sponsor local schools based on certain criteria and a selection process. Fortunately Brighton High School was one of the schools that got selected. Having gone to school here at Brighton I wanted to do Brighton."

High school Senior Emma Tousignant tells WHMI that when she was using the simulator, it was very hard to concentrate on her driving. "It was interesting. I've never really done something like that. The car was actually really hard to control, but I think it's a good way to teach students, the younger students who don't have their license or haven't taken driver's training yet to avoid being distracted and realize their surroundings when they're in the car."

About 160 students from five Health classes were able to experience the simulated driving program, believed the first of its kind to be put on at Brighton High School. There was a prior program in which students wearing special goggles drove around in golf carts, intended to mimic the results of driving while intoxicated and driving while using drugs, but none until now on driving while distracted by texting, talking, or checking e-mails on a cell phone.

The Distracted Driving program asks parents to do their part by stopping any bad habits including any aggressive driving, speeding, failing to signal or tailgating, and asks that they pull over to text or place a phone call. Many apps recommended by the Department of Motor Vehicles are available as anti-distraction measures. They include LifeSaver, which uses GPS monitoring and a rewards system to help drivers break bad habits and AT&T DriveMode, which blocks any phone talking or texting while driving.

Brighton High School Health teacher Becky Goyt said the program Tuesday was very useful and that her classes would be discussing the simulator and the issue of distracted driving today. (TT)